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  • Thymus vulgaris L.
  • Labiatae
  • Mint family

Common Names

herbsCommon thyme
herbsGarden thyme
herbsMother of thyme

Parts Usually Used

Berries, fruits, leaves, and flowers

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Thyme has numerous woody stems 6-10 inches high, covered in fine hair, and flattish round leaves, growing in pairs. The flowers, small bluish-purple, two-lipped, are borne in whorled in dense, head-like clusters, blooming fro May to September, like the rest of the plant, are heavily scented.

This herb has been cultivated for centuries for both medicine and cookery. There are many varieties of thyme from ground covers to shrubby plants a foot or more high: creeping thyme (T. praecox), lemon thyme (T. citriodorus), orange blossom thyme (T x citriodorus orange blossom), (T. glabrescens), (T. mastichina), mother-of-thyme (T. praecox subsp. arcticus), woolly thyme (T. psudolanuginosus), wild thyme (T. serpyllum), argenteus, aureus, T. herba-barona, Spanish thyme (T. zygis), etc. All thymes require full sun and fairly dry, light, well-drained soil. Basil thyme (Acinos thymoides). Thyme tends to rob the soil of nutrients.

Where Found

Thyme grows wild on dry banks and heaths. Grows wild on hillsides in Greece and throughout the Mediterranean, Europe and the British Isles.

Medicinal Properties

Anthelmitic, antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, sedative.

Biochemical Information

Borneol, cavacrol, fluorine, gum, trace minerals, bitter principle, saponins, flavonoids, essential oils, tannins, triterpenic acids, and vitamins B-complex, C, and D.

Legends, Myths and Stories

An oil in thyme was once a standard ingredient of most antiseptic lotions and commercial disinfectants, mouthwashes and toothpastes.

Around 3000 BC the Sumerians were using it as a medicinal ingredient, and the Egyptians included it among the herbs and spices used in mummification. The Greeks used thyme as a temple incense (the word thyme comes from a Greek word meaning "to fumigate", and both they and the Romans praised its healing virtues. During the Middle Ages thyme was considered a symbol of courage, and knights rode into battle wearing scarves on which their ladies had embroidered sprigs of the herb.

A Biblical association with thyme is the Christ-child's manger, Christian tradition holds with good cause that thyme was among the 3 or 4 herbs upon which Mary and the Child bedded in Bethlehem of Judea, and so it has become an herb to be in the gardens of churches and monasteries.


Used for sinusitis and asthma. Eliminates gas and reduces fever, mucus, and headaches. Good for chronic respiratory problems, colds, flu, bronchitis, whooping cough, and sore throat. Lowers cholesterol levels. Good to relieve coughs, and whooping cough. Externally, helps sprains and strains.

A poultice can be made from the leaves of thyme that will combat all forms of inflammation and infection. Effective against hookworms. Rub the extract between the toes daily for athlete's foot. Used externally, the extract can be used daily for crabs, lice, and scabies.

Taken internally by standard infusion, thyme is a first-rate digestive, febrifuge and liver tonic. Anti-spasmodic and nervine, it is held to cure a wide range of psychological disorders, even insanity. Hysteria, halitosis and assorted female ailments, especially mastitis, loss of appetite.

Thyme baths are said to be helpful for neurastenia, rheumatic problems,, paralysis, bruises, swellings, and sprains. The salve made from thyme can be used for shingles.

Thyme can repel insects and moths. It is said to aid the growth of eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes when planted nearby in the garden. Thyme is a favorite of bees.

Formulas or Dosages

Infusion: steep 1/2 tsp. fresh herb or 1 tsp. dried herb in 1/2 cup water for 3 to 5 minutes. Take 1 to 1 1/2 cups per day, a mouthful at a time.

Oil: take 10-20 drops, 3 times per day.

Bath additive: make a strong decoction and add to the bath water.

How Sold

Sold commercially as a spice.


Use sparingly. Do not make a habit of using thyme.

Avoid therapeutic doses of thyme and thyme oil in any form during pregnancy because the herb is a uterine stimulant.

Thyme oil can irritate mucous membranes. Always dilute it well if used.

Excessive internal use of thyme can lead to symptoms of poisoning and to overstimulation of the thyroid gland. Use caution.

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